This Trade Season, Miami Ended Up Fishing
Coming up to the trade deadline on February 7th, the Miami Heat found themselves in a precarious situation. A glut of good but not great players had become an unsolvable puzzle for even a great coach like Erik Spoelstra, leading to constantly changing lineups and poor team chemistry. In addition, most of those good but not great players were being overpaid on their current contracts and would need sweeteners of some kind to move. The final nail in the coffin, Miami’s most valuable trade assets, it’s young core of Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson, and Bam Adebayo, were also the players they most needed to keep ahold of to build around in the future. While the Heat approached the deadline hoping to be sellers, the end result was they came away like fishers.
I use the analogy of fishing because any experienced fisher will tell you that some days the fish just don’t bite. By all accounts the Heat were pushing hard to make trades to clear out the overcrowded rotation and regain some cap flexibility. However, the Heat weren’t including any of their young core in trade talks and had only a few precious picks they wanted to hold onto, so they were working with minimal bait. Derrick Jones Jr was another player Miami wanted to keep a hold of and had recently been injured. The time has probably come to trade Goran Dragic, but he’s still recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery and teams would be hesitant to give up much on an over 30 point guard returning from knee surgery. Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Johnson have been playing well, but are still being overpaid for their production. Kelly Olynyk, James Johnson, and Dion Waiters have been solid to bad in that order and are definitely overpaid. Rodney McGruder and Wayne Ellington have some value, but both have fallen out of the rotation for a team struggling to make the playoffs. Miami didn’t have any good hooks or tackles either.
Rumors were Miami was lining up a deal to trade Dragic to the Utah Jazz, though negotiations stalled as the Jazz were inquiring about Mike Conley’s status from the Memphis Grizzlies. Memphis didn’t announce until about an hour before the deadline they were planning to keep Conley, not leaving enough time for the Jazz and Heat to negotiate and reach a deal. Whiteside and McGruder were also included in a few trade rumors but ultimately no team names emerged.
At the end of the deadline, Miami ended up doing only one trade, sending Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Ryan Anderson. The trade is significant for a few reasons. For one, sending out two guards to get a power forward back alleviates some of the logjam at the guard positions. While Ryan Anderson isn’t expected to play much due to his defensive limitations, he can still play spot minutes as a stretch 4 in the event of injury. Lastly, and probably most importantly to the front office, this trade was a significant step to almost getting out of the luxury tax. For a team that’s not contending for a title, it’s tough for the front office to get away with being over the luxury tax, and certainly not acceptable to dip into the repeater tax. Due to his previous trade from the Houston Rockets to the Suns, Anderson will make around 15.6 million next year, compared to Johnson’s 19.2 million. This will allow the Heat to operate with more flexibility next season and hopefully dodge the luxury and repeater tax.
While a move was made at least before the deadline, the result is only a lessening of the tax burden and a slight clearing of the logjam at guard. Overall, the Heat are still loaded with bad contracts and little cap flexibility for the next few years. For a team that has championship aspirations, the Heat barely receive a passing grade in my opinion, finishing with a C for the trade deadline. The next chance Miami will have to make moves will be during the summer, so the priority until then will be to try and increase the trade value of all their pieces during the remainder of the regular season and the playoffs. This summer, hopefully Miami gets a few more bites.